This morning, we continue in the sermon series called “Kingdom Treasure” where we’ve been taking a look at different passages of scripture where Jesus is offering deep spiritual truths about what the Kingdom of God is like. The first week, we uncovered that the Kingdom of God is like a treasure that is buried in the ground. It is full of incredible value and is worth any sacrifice to have it. The second week, we discovered that the Kingdom of God may begin small and insignificant, but when placed in the hearts of faithful people, it can make a huge impact. Today, we are going to search through the scriptures again for another Kingdom truth, one about how the Kingdom of God grows in us.
On stage with me today, I have a yellow pear tomato plant. It’s a pretty impressive plant, actually. This one may not be all that big yet, yet being the key word, but it will get there. Each year, we grow a few of these at our home, most of the sweet tomatoes never making it into our home because we eat them right off the plant. But it’s quite amazing how big these plants get. We have 4-foot high posts on two sides of our garden box with twine running between them to act like a fence for the tomato plants to grow up through. But they grow well beyond 4 feet. In fact, most years, they hit the 4-foot height, turn and continue to grow down until they reach the ground and even grow along the ground.
It’s hard to believe that before this massive plant had roots, a stem, branches, leaves, and fruit, it was nothing more than a tiny seed – like really tiny, so tiny it looks like a speck of dirt on my hand. It takes a lot of time and patience to see this kind of growth take place. It takes the right kind of soil and conditions to receive a harvest from a tomato plant.
The scripture we’re looking at today has a lot to do with planting and growing. Our next Kingdom treasure is found in two parables that Jesus teaches again to a large crowd that gathered around Him. Let’s start with the shorter one, one that I shared with the children last week.
31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
As you read the New Testament, you’ll quickly realize that agricultural illustrations are used over and over again. That’s because a large number of those whom Jesus spoke to were farmers, so Jesus uses farming analogies to teach spiritual truth.
He says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is planted in a field. The first thing to know is that a mustard seed is an incredibly small seed, only one to two millimeters.
So, as it would be placed in the soil, it would simply disappear without a trace. But after a short time, that seed would sprout and begin to grow. It would burst through the surface of the dirt, and it would grow into a very large plant. Some mustard plants would grow to be over six feet tall. The text says that it would become so large in the garden that birds would come to perch in its branches.
POINT #1 – THE KINGDOM IS A SEED
Jesus tells His listeners that this is what the Kingdom of God is like. The Kingdom is like a seed, something that grows over time when it’s planted in the right environment. This Kingdom is a treasure that begins tiny. Look at this way, it was embodied in the single person of Jesus before it is replicated into the disciples and eventually millions of people worldwide. It began in a tiny location in the Middle East and is now global.
This means that the smallest action can grow into a major Kingdom impact. The tiniest gift can become a great blessing. A little bit of faith can grow into faithful obedience. The Kingdom is like a seed, and it grows when it is planted in the right environment.
The other passage of scripture where Jesus teaches about seeds of the Kingdom is in…
3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
The story begins with a farmer who has gone out to sow seed in his field. The seed in this story is incredibly valuable. If you think about it, a seed, any seed, is an encapsulated promise. It’s full of all the necessary pieces for new life. It’s full of potential. Each and every seed this farmer scatters has the potential to produce life.
The farmer would go out into the field and reach into a satchel and take a handful of seed and broadcast it out across the ground. This farmer seems to have little concern over where the seed was thrown and where it fell. As the story begins, the listeners would have been shocked to hear where these seeds ended up. You would have heard gasps from the crowd because this seed is the farmer’s livelihood. If these seeds don’t take root and don’t grow…potentially his family doesn’t eat, potentially he has nothing to sell.
Some seed fell on a beaten path and was eaten by birds; some fell on rocky soil and began to grow only to be scorched by the sun; some fell among thorns, and the seed took root and started to grow only to be choked by the weeds. Things don’t look good for the farmer until we hear the final location of where some of the seed fell.
Some of the seed that was sown falls on fertile soil, ground ready to receive the seeds and allow them to take root and grow strong. In fact, these seeds produce 30, 60, and 100 times more than what was sown.
Jesus ends by saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear and understand.” In other words, don’t miss the depth of meaning in this story. The Kingdom is like seed sown generously, given to everyone, to take root and grow.
POINT #2 – THE SEED IS THE GOSPEL SOWN INTO PEOPLE’S HEARTS
…and it’s given to everyone who will except it. God is always looking to grow His Kingdom in the hearts of people. Every person has a heart that consists of varying types of soil. Some places the Kingdom seed can grow, and others it cannot. Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of the story.
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
I want you to hold that seed you were given as you entered the room in your hand for a moment. I want to be real clear. This morning, the seed of the Gospel is being sown. Like a farmer with seed, I am humbled to scatter the Good News of the Kingdom. And just like in the story Jesus tells, this seed that is sown in you has the same potential for life, the same ability to produce a crop. But according to the story, some seeds don’t get the chance to take root and grow because of the soil they fall in.
I’ve personally and physically experienced this struggle for sowing and growing seed. My husband built our home just a few years before we were married. Living in the woods with many hickory nut trees, rocks and clay dirt, it’s been hard to grow grass. Since I moved in, each spring I’ve worked hard to try to grow grass to cover the bare spots. In some parts of the yard, the seed sprouted and grew beautifully. Other places it did nothing at all. The dirt varies from sandy to rocky, from full sun to full shade, from bare to weed covered. And I noticed that the different responses of the seeds had everything to do with the soil it landed on.
Jesus is teaching that the kind of impact the truth of the Gospel has on our lives has everything to do with the kind of heart condition we have. Some of our hearts this morning are not favorable to that tiny seed of God’s Kingdom taking root and growing. However, some of our hearts are rich soil that is ready to receive the truth of God’s love.
POINT #3 – IT’S NOT A PROBLEM WITH THE SEED, IT’S A PROBLEM WITH THE SOIL
As the farmer sows, some of these seeds fall on a beaten path. Jesus describes this heart as one that does not understand the Good News it is given. The feeling here is that some people who are given the Good News of the Kingdom have no idea what to do with it. This person is unconcerned with the things of God. Maybe this is you.
You have heard the things of God discussed so many times that you have lost count. This person ignores God’s guidance in their life. This person doesn’t understand God’s work in their life, not because of ignorance, but because of disregard. For so long, you have neglected to acknowledge God, and in so doing you have become hardened, like a beaten path. Your heart has become calloused.
Ever get callouses on your hands and they get so hard that you don’t have feeling there?
This first type of heart Jesus discusses is a very dangerous one. Most of the time this person has heard the right things, but has pushed them away enough times that they are no longer familiar with conviction. They’re numb. The outcome here is that when the seed falls, it is stolen away by the evil one so quickly because it’s unable to take root at all. You’re so distracted and attracted to the evil or worldly things because you’ve never left the Good News take root.
Other seed falls on rocky soil. Jesus describes this as a heart that has heard the good news of the Gospel, was really excited about it, they have even responded to God’s Kingdom, but when trouble comes, the shallow roots that had developed are scorched by the sun.
This heart is one that seems to see the Gospel as only being attractive when things are good. They believe that responding to the seed of the Gospel should result in life being good and blessed at all times. Because of this attitude, they never allow their roots to go deep. The conversations remain shallow, the commitment to Jesus remains shallow, the sacrificial living remains shallow. When the hard times come in whatever form they present themselves (someone gets sick, someone doesn’t make it, there’s a tragedy, I’m tired of getting up on Sunday mornings) their faith withers.
Other seed falls on soil that is full of weeds and thorns. Jesus describes this heart as one that allows the seed of the gospel to grow in their lives, but unfortunately also allows other things to grow in their lives as well. Jesus actually gives names to these thorns…the worries of this world and the deceitfulness of money. These are distracted hearts. Many today are distracted by busyness, all the other things that are being offered in this world.
Weeds don’t take long to grow. A good bit of our yard is weeds, and with no rain they’ve been at bay. Now with all the wonderful rain we are getting, guess what is quick to pop up, like almost overnight, weeds. Weeds start with a few here and there, and then eventually began to take all the nutrients and kill off all the good grass.
Perhaps in your heart you have experienced the seed of the Gospel. It’s taken root and started to grow, but along the way you began to feel your affections and desire swing from the Kingdom to distractions and things you value more, like being seen as successful by others, more money and stuff, your latest hobby, a relationship, or an addiction. These things begin to receive all of your time and attention until they slowly choke out your relationship with God.
We’ve all seen both of these, even in this church. They are here for 6 months, all is great, they are excited, but they never let the Word get deep. They don’t put the work in themselves to open up to the Word. Then, either trouble comes and they give up, or something better comes up and they choose that instead of God.
There is one final type of soil listed.
Thankfully, some seed falls on what the Bible calls good soil. I don’t know about you, but I want my heart to be good soil. For the seed that falls on this location, the result is supernatural. It produces a crop that is 30, 60, and 100 times what is sown. Now in the ancient near east, a farmer would be lucky to have an increase of 20 times what he sowed. So, when this seed produces 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown, this is not something natural that takes place; it is supernatural, a God thing.
The majority of a farmer’s time farming is spent making sure the soil is ready to receive the seed. It’s spent making sure the ground is fertile. Remember, the problem is not with the seed, it is with the soil. Each year, farmers test the ground, spread the right fertilizer, take the plow and disc and pull it through the fields to break up the ground and turn it over to expose the fresh soil before they plant.
The good news is that you are not stuck with your current state of soil. Some of us recognize that our soil is not in the condition to let God’s seed grow. We need to break up the soil in our hearts, remove the rocks, and pull out the weeds. For many of us, it is time to try a new thing to ensure our heart is good soil. Maybe it’s time to find some godly community, it’s time to spend time in scripture or dedicate ourselves to prayer. Maybe it’s time to get involved in serving here at the church or within our community. Maybe it is time to go on a mission trip. Maybe it is time to repent from some kind of sin and receive the grace of God.
The fertile heart produces a harvest in us and through us.
What I love most about this story is that the farmer is incredibly generous with His sowing. The seed falls in every location. I don’t think Jesus would tell us this parable without the amazing truth that no matter what the condition of our heart today, God is still casting seed on you. He is still extending His love and grace to you. Jesus knows that the soil of our hearts can change as we seek Him, open our lives to Him, and accept the work He desires to do within us.
As we close, I want you to reflect on two questions: First, what is the condition of the soil in your life? Second, are you ready to turn to Jesus and let Him do the necessary work in your life to help you position yourself in a place where the Gospel seed can grow?
We are impatient people, and often we are not willing to wait to see what God will grow in our lives. But the Kingdom of God is like a slow growing plant that when placed in the right kind of soil will go from a tiny seed to a tree that offers a strong, safe place.
Given the right kinds of conditions, the Kingdom of God being planted in our lives can change everything. So I ask you to allow the Spirit of God today to show you what areas of your life need to change to allow your heart to be more fertile soil for spiritual growth.